Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6
The Wanderer, Part 7
The Wanderer, Part 8
The Wanderer, Part 9
The Wanderer, Part 10
The Wanderer, Part 11
Tas woke up in confusion, his breathing was shallow and a cold sweat laced his forehead. The soft cushions and a mattress supported as he regained his breath, finally remembering where he was from the grey stone floor of the monastery. His training was getting more intense; Paj was relentless in his teaching, giving Tas task after task and leaving no extra energy in the wake of his teaching. It wasn’t even interesting, he just had Tas memorizing patterns and movements of the stars and especially the planets. He was getting good at plotting Mercury, but the other five or six were a complete mystery. Paj worked him tirelessly saying it was all useless until he could track the movement of the six prime planets and major constellations. Then, he would learn about the planets of the planets, which granted stronger sight, but were seemingly impossibly complex. Tas was exhausted, even Shu was pushing Tas’ limits now; Tas sighed with fatigue, but he was happy to be tired. The only times he had ever worked this hard before had been with his father in the final days of the harvest.
He couldn’t remember his dream, but he could feel the intensity from the ferocious beating of his heart and felt flustered. He took his time to catch his breath and hung his head to clear and calm his mind. He rubbed the back of his neck, straining to remember. He went to his washroom and prepared for the day, taking his time, then went out to meander through the hall for the morning’s ceremony, the dream forgotten.
After the ceremony, he met Fei at the balcony, which was customary. But instead of order Tas to go with Shu for the day, he motioned for Tas to follow him. Tas soon found himself entering the Acharya’s chambers. It was full of artwork, paintings on the walls and floors and all sorts of trinkets, more beautiful than Tas had ever seen. No doubt it was the work of the monks, but Tas wondered why Fei had so many.
Fei motioned for Tas to sit on a beautiful rug on his floor and began to pour him tea. He smiled, the same beaming smile that Tas had grown accustomed to. He wondered when the monk wasn’t smiling and couldn’t hide his grin. The old monk simply smiled.
“Tas, you look tired. How have you been feeling?”
Tas hadn’t seen himself lately, but he was sure that the monk must be right, “I have been working hard, master Fei. The training here is very difficult!”
Fei laughed. He didn’t respond, but sipped his tea instead, waiting a moment. “Is this the kind of challenge that you want?”
“Why, yes master Fei.” Tas lowered his eyes, “I felt never felt so purposeful before, I focus only on my studies and learning meditation. I felt one foot begin to float off the floor yesterday!”
“Good, boy,” Fei said happily. “You’ll be able to levitate within your first year, if you keep it up.”
Tas was confused by this. A year? He was only staying for a few weeks, until Yao returned. Did this mean he could stay if he wanted?
“Paj has noticed your proficiency for star reading. He has asked that you stay for an additional month to continue studying. He says he can teach you three techniques in next six weeks time, and Yao has agreed. He will return then, as long as you approve.”
“Of course I approve,” Tas said eagerly. Everything seemed to be working in his favor now.
Fei nodded at the enthusiasm and sipped his tea slowly. They rose together and Tas left to go meet Shu in the trees.
When he arrived into the circle of silent monks, Shu was nowhere to be seen. Tas chose a tree and sat under its cool shade, letting himself drift off into his meditation, letting his thoughts, his mind, and his body go. His breath would take care of itself. He drifted off into the ocean of his mind, lost within the nothingness at his own core. He didn’t know how long he sat for, but when Shu woke him, his legs were completely numb. They walked together from the circle of trees and entered the grounds, following the path to the garden. Pink blossoms floated in the gentle wind and the water of the pond grew still as Shu sat by the edge. He motioned for Tas to do the same.
Shu spoke extremely slowly, Tas could hardly understand, but he leaned in to the monk’s soft words. “You are strong, Tas. Your meditation is so peaceful…” She looked a bit distraught, but mostly thoughtful. “You practice meditation with Yao?”
“Yes,” Tas said. “The old man is infuriating, but his lessons are invaluable,” Tas thought back to their journeys in the desert. He was excited to begin traveling again, but he was more excited to learn here. His meditations were indeed growing longer and longer.
“You are now a powerful meditator Tas, you can set aside your emotions easily, see clearly, but most importantly…” Shu looked at Tas determinedly, “You can empty yourself of judgement. This is the only way to see the truth. One of the first steps towards understanding god, is understanding truth, Tas. Knowledge is the key to understanding god, but you must relinquish all knowledge to truly know god.” Shu grinned, knowing that he was now talking to empty space.
Tas nodded, but he didn’t understand. He would learn, with time. But he knew that the monk was teaching him something valuable, so he remembered his words like a puzzle to be solved for later.